After recent discussions with Minnesota horse people regarding the industry, and folks looking for advice ranging from breeding to wagering to the understanding of variation, I decided the best way to help others be successful would be to open up a public you tube channel. (Yep, I know everybody's doing it but I'll bet you don't know too many 64 year olds who are....Haha.)
Anyway, the easiest way to get information out to family and friends, offer video updates, present educational opportunities on a huge variety of subjects, develop understanding of statistical analysis, and even learn about critical Minnesota based issues that need to be tackled by the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry, will be on this channel. Why? Because videos and presentations are easily viewed on You Tube, and easier to understand and prepare than written documents.
Simply go to the following link and subscribe to the channel I just established. (Family and friends, you'll even find a couple of videos of our horses winning stakes races on the channel playlist.)
This costs nothing of course because I always offer knowledge freely to those who sincerely want help related to the pastime we love. By subscribing to the Astar Thoroughbreds Channel the information will flow to you more easily, and you can access the channel anytime. While the channel is just framed out now, there will be much more information added to the channel very soon.
Oh, and for my older family and friends who aren't quite as accepting of new technology, go to You Tube, sign up and establish your password if you want. You'll be amazed at the videos that can teach you much more than you ever wanted to know on just about any subject you can imagine. (Start by searching Glozell and the cinnamon challenge for a great laugh.) Trust me on this. There is a massive informational world that awaits.
Did you know that a new "BIG" event on the horse racing scene takes place in 8 days on January 28th, televised on NBC?
Some folks told me they knew nothing about it so I looked online this morning and Minnesota horse organizations and media don't seem to even be aware of the event, due to their myopic MN understanding of racing. Nevertheless, owners have put in $1,000,000 each for their horses to run in the $12,000,000 Pegasus World Cup..........which now includes tremendous horses like California Chrome and Arrogate!
This is a new creative and exciting event which brings some great competitors together for a huge race! (New, exciting and creative, I guess it's no wonder local organizations can't even recognize it as an important event.)
Anyway, if you want to see a great event I thought some of the real Minnesota horse folks and players would like to plan around watching it, or even wagering on it. It's on NBC from 4:30 to 6:00 EST on January 28th.
Enjoy, and here's a link for more information......plus watch Conor McGregor in the 13th Jockey for a few laughs.
Most of you know my view of the Minnesota breeding program based upon earlier posts. The quantity, or breeding volume, is very low considering the total purses paid in Minnesota because a disproportionate share of purses is paid to horses bred in other states, by a 2 to 1 ratio!
So I was told by a local horseman, "That may be true but our quality has been getting much better". When asked how he reached that conclusion he mentions that he knows of a Minnesota bred horse or two that won open company races.
There will always be a few good horse outliers. That is the nature of variation. In truth, and I know this is hard to say to our many hard working breeders, Minnesota quality is even poorer than quantity, and has been for many years.
One of the worst things to happen, that publicized Minnesota's poor quality, occurred a few years ago. NAISCS, the group that decides on stakes quality, started using meaningful speed rating comparisons to establish Black Type stakes. Minnesota quickly had the majority of their stakes bred races "disqualified" as Black Type because the top placing horses in those races were so comparatively slow. Local horse people, who understand nothing about statistical normalization, tried to argue the changes. The NAISCS rightfully ignored the anecdotal arguements and in fact, only 4 of 14 Minnesota state bred races were Black Type in 2016.
Another measure of quality no one in Minnesota wants to talk about, is the ability for state breds to earn purses in other states. Why? Because in home states these state bred horses get to compete in races that are "restricted" to JUST other state breds. If horses earn purses in other states where they were not bred, they are not only good enough to ship and run elsewhere but they can beat horses from other states by earning purses in open company races. For example, Kentucky breds, the best bred horses in the world, earn 82% of their earnings in states other than Kentucky.
I looked with anticipation to see if Minnesota improved it's bottom ranked position when the 2017 Jockey Club State Fact Books came out recently. Unfortunately, by any measure, our quality is simply terrible by comparison, as you can see by the attached chart with Minnesota again sitting on the bottom of the chart with their state breds earning only 8.5% of their purses in other states! In business terms, I would call this a systemic quality failure in Minnesota breeding.
Unfortunately, both our Minnesota quantity (based on MN paid purse levels) and quality of foals is comparatively terrible. Mediocrity would be a vast improvement.
I know it's painful to hear this for my breeding friends, but it's not our fault. Volume and quality are poor because the breeding economics are terrible, and there is no economic reason to breed in high volume, or for truly high quality, in Minnesota. The overall Minnesota breeding program, from purse distributions to breeding incentives, has to change dramatically if even comparative mediocrity is to be realized.
Again, these are not opinions, they are simple to understand economic and systemic facts. Nothing will change, including awful results, until horse people wake up and start to effectively negotiate for change.
A few of you asked for a stable update so I'll try to cover everything in this post.
First we had a tragic accident with one of our babies. We had just named our filly out of Gazette by Stormy Business when I got the call. She had broken loose off a walker, fell, cracked her skull and had a seizure shortly after the vet had arrived. It was another painful reminder that horse racing is a variable thing, loaded with both highs and lows.
This accident was particularly painful in our eyes in that she was the last Gazette baby we bred, and her death came shortly after we had just lost our son's beloved golden retreiver (Hunter) a couple weeks earlier.
The nobility of pets, who never ask for anything but give everything, always takes a little piece of your heart when they leave.
On a happier note, our other two year old out of a Speightstown mare by Stormy Business, is doing well, has been broke and was named Twin Cities Magic. He and Oaks winning Blazing Angel, PJ's Angel, AJ's Angel and Victory Ice will soon be joining Gary Scherer to prepare for racing at Canterbury. If all goes well, we will have all 5 horses running at Canterbury this summer, and we are optimistic we will have another profitable year with Tom and Felicia Lindquist.
In MN breeding, years ago when I was on the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association board and the Minnesota Breeders Fund Advisory group, I started encouraging state fund and purse distribution improvements consistent with contemporary breeding states. Today mediocre results, considering the huge increase in MN purses we started realizing in 2012, have still done nothing to change antiquated and uncompetive thinking. As a result, our MN breeding has been minimized. We are keeping only one Minnesota broodmare, selling all others including Demiparfait and our stallion Stormy Business (the leading sire of Minnesota bred winners and earners over the last 4 years).
Our one Minnesota broodmare, BJ's Angel, is in foal to Sidney's Candy and should foal out in March. We will continue to race and breed, but will limit breeding in the future to the more advanced breeding states that engage in intelligent dialogue, and better support breeding as a state agricultural activity.
After my recent blog posts, people asked where I get my racing industry information. Much of it comes from the publicly available Jockey Club State Fact Books. If you want to take the time to really understand how Minnesota stacks up, anyone can find out by reviewing every individual state fact book as I do, and then completing a "comparative analysis". (Funny how MN organizations that should stay on top of this stuff and transparently share such an analysis never do, isn't it?)
Anyway, here's a direct link to the Minnesota 2017 Jockey Club Fact Book which highlights the 2016 declines in purses, open company starters and average purses per race I mentioned in yesterdays blog.
Well the new 2017 Jockey Club State Fact Books came out so I reviewed the 2016 numbers. As predicted, the Minnesota average and total purses dropped in 2016. Minnesota average purses per race dropped from $26,758 to $25,018, a substantial one year decline of 6.5%! Gross purses dropped from $14,689,965 to $13,635,940, a 7.2% decline! (Have your horse organizations told you that, or explained why to you?)
General indicators were also off. A few weeks back it was publicly announced that the pari-mutuel handle was down 8.5% in 2016, a huge drop in one year. The new Jockey Club 2016 data also indicates that the average field size dropped for the third straight year in a row to 7.7 horses. The total number of starters in Minnesota dropped 6.2%, while the much smaller population of Minnesota state bred starters actually increased 8.6%. (States that seriously committed to their state breeding economy like Indiana have over half of their racing starters as state breds, where Minnesota has less than one third of their racing starters coming from the state bred population.)
Things are headed in the direction predicted, because Minnesota horse people have yet to demand that organizations “competitively” represent a commitment to the Minnesota state breeding economy. (State bred purse distributions and the Minnesota Breeders Fund.)
As an aside, anyone want to ask where the ballyhooed open horse stables that came to race in 2013 went, or how that lowest takeout thing really worked?
I have always been fascinated with excellence and was recently asked about states that have exceptional breeding results. To answer the question, I went to my spreadsheets and surprisingly found that since 2010 only 3 major breeding states with declining purses have actually increased their number of state bred racing starts. Those states, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, have collectively seen their state bred starts increase by 26.7%, while amazingly their purses declined by 4.6%!
Why should I or other horse people be fascinated by this? Because over this same period of time, the industry saw huge declines in state bred starts and increased their purses! For example, the big 3 breeding states of Kentucky, Florida and California saw their average state bred starts decline of 29.0% while they increased purses 15.6%. Interestingly, Minnesota saw state bred starts decline 27.0% while increasing purses by a massive rate of 96.0%, due to the 2012 Mystic Lake deal, during this same time period.
Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana had shockingly fascinating results. Why did the breeding results in these 3 states stand out so dramatically? The answer was simpler than I imagined. They were smart enough to realize that if they economically invested in breeding, far beyond the rest of the industry, they could build a nearly captive racing population of state bred horses to run at their state’s racetracks.
So how do these 3 excellent state breeding models stack up? According to the Jockey Club 2015 State Fact Books, the Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana purses paid to state bred horses, represented over half of their total purses paid out! Their non-weighted average percentage payment of total purses paid to state bred horses was 51.4%! By comparison, Minnesota only paid 31.0% of total purses paid out to their state bred horses in 2015. (Even near competitive states like Iowa, Illinois and Oklahoma pay 47% or higher.)
Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana also improved their legislation related to Thoroughbred breeding incentive programs. They guarantee many things. From purse payment percentages, to overnight state bred race counts, to guaranteed stake races and even out of state breeders fund payments for state breds that win in other states (IN/LA), their incentive programs create real incentives!
For placing in state races, Pennsylvania pays up to 40%, Indiana pays 20%, and Louisiana pays 18% of qualified purses earned to state breeders as an incentive award. By comparison Minnesota guarantees nothing, but does calculate and pay a breeding incentive AFTER all racing is done. This of course makes the term “breeding incentive” an oxymoron. Over the last decade, Minnesota payments have been as low as 3.9% of qualified purses in 2012, and were 7.6% last year in 2016.
So there you have it. There are states that buck national breeding trends in spite declining purses! They do it by utilizing an entirely different model than we utilize in Minnesota. They pour available purse funds and incentives toward their state’s “agricultural” breeding economy.
As we now enter 2017 and another breeding season, Minnesota horse owner residents, Minnesota breeder residents and Minnesota breeding businesses might be as fascinated as I am with how excellent breeding systems work. Why? Because in today's real world, “You must expose your vulnerabilities to patch them”!
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.